Preference is biased by crowded facial expressions


Crowding occurs when nearby flankers impede the identification of a peripheral stimulus. Here, we studied whether crowded features containing inaccessible emotional information can nevertheless affect preference judgments. We relied on gaze-contingent crowding, a novel method allowing for constant perceptual unawareness through eye-tracking control, and we found that crowded facial expressions can bias evaluative judgments of neutral pictographs. Furthermore, this emotional bias was effective not only for static images of faces, but also for videos displaying dynamic facial expressions. In addition to showing an alternative approach for probing nonconscious cognition, this study reveals that crowded information, instead of being fully suppressed, can have important influences on decisions.

Psychological science